AT&T Park — Minutes before Madison Bumgarner delivered his first pitch of 2018, the familiar, folksy twang of “Fire on the Mountain” poured through the stadium speakers.
The Marshall Tucker Band ballad that always introduces the left-hander ushered in what was an impressive debut for Bumgarner, on a night when the offense couldn’t find the big hit in the big moment.
“It was great [to be back],” Bumgarner said after the 3-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks. “That’s what I get paid to do. It’s nice to earn your paycheck, instead of stealing it.”
After a scoreless first, Bumgarner was quickly reminded of the difference between the High-A California League — where he made his final rehab tuneup — and the big leagues. The Diamondbacks dented Bumgarner for a pair of runs in the second, with back-to-back doubles from Ketel Marte and Chris Owings bringing in the first run before a defensive breakdown helped account for the second. An RBI single for Kristopher Negron trickled between Evan Longoria and Brandon Crawford after the former deferred to the shortstop, who had the better angle on the play.
That miscue aside, the defense was largely a plus for Bumgarner, as he needed 82 pitches to navigate his six innings of two-run ball. Bumgarner scattered eight hits, while striking out three.
“He got better as he went,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He gave us six good innings there we just couldn’t get some runs for him.”
In the third, after back-to-back singles by David Peralta and Giants-killer Paul Goldschmidt, Crawford saved Bumgarner from a potential rally, firing home to erase Peralta as he broke for the plate on a ground ball.
A couple of innings later, Goldschmidt — who went 3-for-3 — drilled a line drive to left, but the ball hopped over the fence, going for a ground-rule double and holding Nick Ahmed at third, where he was stranded.
In the bottom of the fifth, the crowd rose to its feet and roared as Bumgarner approached the batter’s box with the bases loaded, and the deficit cut to 2-1 after a Crawford double. Bumgarner proceeded to strikeout, whiffing badly on an 82 mph slider from Patrick Corbin before snapping his bat against the ground in dismay.
“What I’d like to have back is that at-bat with the bases loaded,” Bumgarner said. “I’ve got to find a way to get a guy in there. That was the difference, I think.”
Gorkys Hernandez and Buster Posey — hitting a combined .300 — both followed with strikeouts of their own, ending the threat.
Posey had the chance to redeem himself in the seventh when he stepped up with two outs and the bases loaded, but missed a 2-0 fastball, flaring a shallow flyout to center field.
Posey did manage a run-scoring single in the ninth to push the Giants (30-31) to within one, but a Longoria groundout brought an end to the rally and the night.
“We just couldn’t get that big hit to get us over the hump,” Bochy said. “And we had the right guys up and some games it doesn’t happen.”
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